Viral Stories About Locust Eating Duck Army From China Debunked

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CLAIM: Chinese officials are on standby with 100,000 “duck troops” to assist in Pakistan’s national locust emergency, Chinese experts recommend the use of ducks in Pakistan over pesticides and other methods

FACT: Zhang Long, part of the delegation of Chinese experts sent to Pakistan to assist in the locust emergency, rejected the report that China was going to send ducks to Pakistan, and advised the use of chemical or biological pesticides instead.

On 1 February 2020, Pakistan’s federal government declared a national emergency regarding the destruction of crops by desert locusts in the Sindh and Punjab provinces. According to viral news stories published by local and international news outlets last week, China was going to send a “duck army” to Pakistan to fight against devastating locust swarms in the country. The claim originates in a chinese Ningbo Evening News story, which was picked up by Associated Press on 27 February 2020. Various new outlets such as BBC, Time Magazine, and Dawn News reproduced the story without confirmation.

Ningbo Evening News originally reported that an army of lotus-eating waterfowl will be sent from the eastern province of Zhejiang. [Note: Soch has not added a link to the Ningbo Evening News website, as the site is not protected.] 

The Ningbo Evening News article quoted Dr Lu Lizhi, a researcher at Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, who stated that the use of ducks would be preferable to conventional methods such as pesticides. This claim was initially directly reproduced in the aforementioned Associated Press article, before it was updated to include how the claim was unverified in nature. By the time this correction was made, the story had been reproduced on local Pakistani websites from the AP wire. The Associated Press produces stories from around the world that newspapers over the globe pay a small fee to publish. This is referred to as the AP wire, and this story was an AP wire story published by Dawn News, but the update was not made. 

On 19 February 2020, a video appeared on the Chinese national service depicting a large number of ducks, titled “’Duck troops’ gather at the border to face locust swarms”. This video went viral in China, and after the story was picked up by news  outlets around the world and in Pakistan, it gained even more traction, amassing almost 800,000 views and more than 9000 likes on Twitter.

Although the idea of ducks being sent to Pakistan to ‘save the day’ is attractive for many, it is not true. Zhang Long, a professor from China Agricultural University stated ducks would not be useful in Pakistan because of the country’s hot weather and instead, advised the use of chemical or biological pesticides. Zhang Long is part of a delegation of Chinese experts sent to Pakistan to help combat the locust problem. 

Summary: Although some researchers believe ducks may be helpful in fighting locust swarms, they are not useful for a country like Pakistan because high temperatures create unsuitable conditions for the birds.

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